Bay breeze climatology at two sites along the Chesapeake bay from 1986–2010: Implications for surface ozone
Hourly surface meteorological measurements were coupled with surface ozone (O3) mixing ratio measurements at Hampton, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland, two sites along the Chesapeake Bay in the Mid-Atlantic United States, to examine the behavior of surface O3 during bay breeze events and quantify the impact of the bay breeze on local O3 pollution. Analyses were performed for the months of May through September for the years 1986 to 2010. The years were split into three groups to account for increasingly stringent environmental regulations that reduced regional emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx): 1986–1994, 1995–2002, and 2003–2010. Each day in the 25-year record was marked either as a bay breeze day, a non-bay breeze day, or a rainy/cloudy day based on the meteorological data. Mean eight hour (8-h) averaged surface O3 values during bay breeze events were 3 to 5 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) higher at Hampton and Baltimore than on non-bay breeze days in all year periods. Anomalies from mean surface O3 were highest in the afternoon at both sites during bay breeze days in the 2003–2010 study period. In conjunction with an overall lowering of baseline O3 after the 1995-2002 period, the percentage of total exceedances of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 75 ppbv 8-h O3 standard that occurred on bay breeze days increased at Hampton for 2003–2010, while remaining steady at Baltimore. These results suggest that bay breeze circulations are becoming more important to causing exceedance events at particular sites in the region, and support the hypothesis of Martins et al. (2012) that highly localized meteorology increasingly drives air quality events at Hampton.
KeywordsOzone Bay Breeze Mid-Atlantic Climatology Chesapeake Bay Hampton Baltimore Nitrogen Oxides
1.1 Surface ozone (O3)
Surface O3 is a United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulated pollutant that has been shown to have adverse effects on the human respiratory system (e.g. Burnett et al. 1994; Jerrett et al. 2009) and photosynthesis in vegetation, leading to crop destruction (Krupa and Manning 1988; Fishman et al. 2010 and references therein). The O3 molecule is a secondary pollutant formed through a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and sunlight, and its concentration near the surface has been shown to be dependent on several, often complex processes such as incoming solar radiation and cloud cover, temperature, precursor compound concentrations, wind speed, and boundary layer height (Comrie 1990; Sillman and Samson 1995; Bloomer et al. 2009; Steiner et al. 2010; Banta et al. 2011).
1.2 The bay breeze
A bay or sea breeze (from here on, bay breeze) is a small-scale circulation that arises from a pressure gradient formed from the temperature contrast of air over land and air over water (Miller et al. 2003). Water has a specific heat capacity greater than land, thus much more energy is required to raise the temperature of a water body than a land surface. Since air is heated from below, temperature differences between the water surface and land surface result in a similar temperature gradient in the near-surface air. A low-level pressure gradient forms with higher air pressure over the water. Given that larger-scale background winds lack the forcing to oppose this local pressure gradient, air is forced from the water surface over the land (Simpson 1994). At night, when the land cools quicker than the water, a reversal of the pressure gradient and flow in the opposite direction initiates the land breeze.
1.3 Motivation for study
The meteorological conditions needed to form a bay breeze and produce O3 go hand in hand. The combination of warm weather and intense sunlight needed to cause a temperature gradient from land to water can eventually lead to a bay breeze at coastal locations. The heat and incoming solar radiation, in the presence of high mixing ratios of NOx and VOCs, can produce high amounts of O3 over land. The cooler water and adjacent air temperatures over water also result in lower boundary layer heights relative to farther inland areas (Berman et al. 1999), concentrating O3 in a smaller volume (Banta et al. 2005; Banta et al. 2011). The stagnant conditions necessary to allow a bay breeze to become the dominant circulation during the daytime also allows a buildup of O3 in the boundary layer due to lack of venting and the accumulation of pollutants (Rappenglück et al. 2008; Wu et al. 2010; Banta et al. 2011; Loughner et al. 2011). The bay breeze front can then transport O3-rich air masses and pollution well inland (Darby 2005; Lin et al. 2007). Previous studies have found the bay breeze to be a mechanism through which emissions and O3 from urban areas can be transported to more rural locations (Angevine et al., 2004; Darby et al. 2007; White et al. 2007).
In addition to similar meteorology controlling both O3 production and bay breeze initiation, the behavior of O3 over water surfaces is quite different than over land. While air masses originating from marine environments generally contain low O3, the land/bay breeze system transports morning terrestrial emissions and O3 over the water surface that then recirculate back to coastal locations (Banta et al. 2005). Ozone readily deposits to surfaces and vegetation over land, but its deposition velocity over water (~0.07 cm s−1) is five to six times slower than over a terrestrial (~0.4 cm s−1) surface (Lenschow et al. 1981; Lenschow et al. 1982; Hauglustaine et al. 1994; Wesely and Hicks 2000). This weaker deposition velocity produces less of a flux of O3 onto the water surface where it is effectively removed from the system. Because of this, high near-surface O3 mixing ratios may accumulate over the water in the morning when the land/bay breeze circulation is dominant. In addition to the reduced deposition of O3, minimal nighttime titration of O3 from a lack of NO over the water surface will decrease O3 loss, leading frequently to higher O3 observations over a water body at night (Mao et al. 2006).
Participation in two recent projects examined these effects and provided the motivation for a long-term historical analysis of bay breezes and O3. During the Chemistry of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer Experiment (CAPABLE; http://capable.larc.nasa.gov/) project in July 2010 in Hampton, Virginia (37.07º, −76.36º) near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, several instances of bay breezes were observed (Martins et al. 2012), with some of them leading to elevated O3 and violations of the EPA 8-h O3 mixing ratio standard of 75 ppbv. The 8-h O3 standard determines compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS; Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone Air Quality Standards) and is therefore an important metric to evaluate during bay breeze events. The only two violations of the NAAQS at Hampton in July 2010 occurred on bay breeze days (Martins et al. 2012), when O3 spiked after the passage of the bay breeze front.
The Deriving Information on Surface Conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality (DISCOVER-AQ; http://nasa.gov/discover-aq) project is a multiyear campaign to capture surface variability of air quality measurements with total column observations for satellite applications. The summer 2011 deployment in the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area included several ground sites susceptible to bay breeze meteorology, with a number of NAAQS violations occurring during bay breeze events at Edgewood, Maryland (Stauffer et al. 2012). These observations impelled a hypothesis that as photochemical O3 precursor emissions decrease through regulation, local meteorology may play a defining role in coastal Mid-Atlantic air pollution events as has been shown on a case study basis in various locations (Banta et al. 2005, Martins et al. 2012, Stauffer et al. 2012).
A climatological analysis of surface O3 on bay breeze days is performed using observations from 1986–2010, and accounts for changes in NOx which have strong effects on surface O3. We attempt to answer the question raised by Martins et al. (2012), namely whether exceedances on days that exhibit a bay breeze correspond to a growing portion of total NAAQS violations at particular locations. To our knowledge, this study represents the first time a combined climatological analysis of bay or sea breezes and surface O3 has been performed. The analysis is performed using meteorological and surface O3 data at Hampton, Virginia and Baltimore, Maryland, two sites near the Chesapeake Bay.
2.1 Measurement sites
In order to perform this study, closely located meteorological and O3 measurements with sufficient historical records are needed. Several coastal Chesapeake Bay locations were identified where hourly surface meteorological measurements (National Climatic Data Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce) and data from a nearby O3 monitoring station were available. Whereas studies of Chesapeake Bay breeze climatology have been performed before (e.g. Sikora et al. 2010), the results have never been combined with surface O3 data.
Baltimore is the largest city in Maryland with a population of over 600,000 residents, and is located within and affected by emissions from the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area, a region with nearly 9 million people. Hampton, Virginia, is a moderately urbanized area with population near 150,000, located within the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia with ~1 million residents. The differences in total population both in the cities themselves and regionally affect the total anthropogenic NOx emissions, which aid in O3 production. Baltimore emitted a total of ~17,000 metric tons of nitrogen oxides compared to ~3,200 metric tons at Hampton for the year 2008 (Environmental Protection Agency 2008, National Emissions Inventory). These differences were considered when evaluating and comparing surface O3 mixing ratios at each location.
2.2 Bay breeze criteria
Airport ASOS sites used in this study for determination of bay breeze events and day types
Hourly ASOS Station
Dist. Inland (km)
Balt.-Wash. Intl. Airport
Dulles Intl. Airport
Langley Air Force Base
Richmond Intl. Airport
Ozone monitoring sites used in this study for analysis of surface O3 by day type
Ozone Monitoring Site
Days were separated into three day types: 1) Bay Breeze Days, 2) Non-Bay Breeze Days and 3) Rainy/Cloudy Days. Rainy or cloudy days were separated from all other days to keep from introducing a low bias in O3 on days when a bay breeze did not occur. Cloud cover greatly reduces the photochemical production of O3, suppressing mixing ratios. Additionally, rainfall will quickly wash out O3 and O3 precursors through wet deposition. The goal of separating days into these three types was to minimize the discernible meteorological differences between non-bay breeze and bay breeze days.
All available days from May through September, for the years 1986–2010 were placed into one of the three day types illustrated in Fig. 3. These day types were used to separate and analyze the behavior of surface O3 for each group of days.
2.3 NOx emission reductions
Regulations of NOx emissions from power plants, a precursor for O3 production, were implemented in the early 2000s. Levels of NOx across the United States dropped and O3 levels responded in kind (Kim et al. 2006). Frost et al. (2006) also found that by 2003, NOx emissions from 53 eastern U.S. power plants had been reduced by 50 % from 1999 levels. For these reasons, 2002 has been used as a cut off between previous years and the current lower NOx regime when analyzing historical O3 records (i.e. Bloomer et al. 2009).
Based on Bloomer et al. (2009)’s use of the year 2002 to distinguish transitioning Mid-Atlantic NOx regimes, the O3 datasets are split into three roughly equal length periods: 1986–1994, 1995–2002, and 2003–2010. While the NOx emissions from year to year within each period are not constant, this method of splitting the data ensures that O3 measurements within each period are at least comparable and can be analyzed together.
3.1 Bay breeze days at each site
3.2 Day type meteorology
Pertinent meteorological variables with 95 % confidence intervals around the mean. Values are separated by day type and checked for statistically significant differences beyond 95 % confidence. Cloud cover is converted from reported octas to percentages
KLFI (Hampton, VA)
Max Temperature (°C)
Cloud Cover (%)
Daytime RH (%)
KBWI (Baltimore, MD)
Max Temperature (°C)
Cloud Cover (%)
Daytime RH (%)
3.3 O3 by day type
The density distribution of all maximum 8-h averages by day type for each site is also shown in Fig. 7. In addition to the requirements for calculating a 1-h O3 average, 8 of 12 valid hourly averages from 09–20 EST were required prior to calculating an 8-h O3 maximum. This requirement is to keep from reporting 8-h maxima on days with only nighttime data, which are likely too low and not representative of the actual O3 mixing ratios on that day.
The distributions of the maximum 8-h averages for each day type at both locations show similar behavior to the maximum 1-h averages. Again, the bay breeze days exhibit the highest mean maximum 8-h O3 averages, followed by the non-bay breeze days and the rainy/cloudy days. Bay breeze days at Hampton had a mean 8-h maximum of 60.4 ± 15.3 versus 56.9 ± 15.4 ppbv on non-bay breeze days, while bay breeze days at Baltimore had a mean 8-h maximum of 69.2 ± 18.4 versus 65.1 ± 18.9 ppbv on non-bay breeze days. The higher 8-h averages on bay breeze days have regulation implications because the NAAQS standard of 75 ppbv is based on an 8-h running average.
Breakdown of surface O3 maximum averages and standard deviations, exceedances, and day types for both sites by study period from May to September, 1986–2010. Exceedance percentage is defined by (exceedances in day type)/(total occurrences of day type)
# of Days
Avg. 1 h max (ppbv)
Avg. 8 h max (ppbv)
73.2 ± 18.8
62.6 ± 15.7
No Bay Breeze
66.6 ± 18.5
59.2 ± 16.2
53.9 ± 17.0
46.2 ± 15.2
71.8 ± 18.1
63.3 ± 16.3
No Bay Breeze
66.4 ± 18.1
59.8 ± 15.9
51.0 ± 15.6
44.2 ± 14.3
63.4 ± 15.3
56.3 ± 13.3
No Bay Breeze
56.8 ± 13.4
51.2 ± 11.9
46.0 ± 13.3
40.4 ± 12.6
69.1 ± 17.9
60.4 ± 15.3
No Bay Breeze
63.4 ± 17.5
56.9 ± 15.4
50.6 ± 15.8
43.8 ± 14.3
# of Days
Avg. 1 h max (ppbv)
Avg. 8 h max (ppbv)
80.2 ± 21.4
70.2 ± 18.3
No Bay Breeze
76.8 ± 23.5
67.6 ± 19.7
55.1 ± 18.4
46.6 ± 15.9
81.5 ± 21.4
72.5 ± 19.8
No Bay Breeze
75.9 ± 22.8
67.3 ± 19.8
57.9 ± 19.4
50.2 ± 17.1
69.9 ± 16.1
63.1 ± 14.7
No Bay Breeze
65.8 ± 17.0
58.9 ± 14.9
54.2 ± 17.1
47.7 ± 15.3
78.0 ± 20.6
69.2 ± 18.4
No Bay Breeze
73.3 ± 22.1
65.1 ± 18.9
55.6 ± 18.3
48.3 ± 16.1
3.4 Baltimore and Hampton ozone diurnal differences
At Hampton, on average, the bay breeze provides statistically significantly higher afternoon O3 than on non-bay breeze days for all three study periods. At Baltimore, the days with a bay breeze on average exhibit statistically significantly higher O3 only in the mid-afternoon hours of the 2003–2010 period (excluding the late evening hours of the 1995–2002 period). This result, along with the much greater differences in O3 mixing ratios amongst the day types in 2003–2010 at Hampton, supports the hypothesis that bay breeze circulations are causing higher anomalies from baseline O3 since the inception of the recent NOx regulations. The diurnal cycles of O3 also show intriguing results related to the early morning meteorological conditions of each day type, with statistically significant differences in O3 during those hours as well. This will be discussed further below.
In addition to the greater day type differences in diurnal O3 noticed in 2003–2010, the typical time of day when non-bay breeze day and bay breeze day O3 diverge and become statistically different also changes in 2003–2010. The earliest statistical difference in O3 at Hampton occurs at 12 EST in both the 1986–1994 and 1995–2002 periods. In the 2003–2010 period, the hourly O3 is significantly different by 09 EST. The differences in timing when the non-bay breeze day and bay breeze day O3 diverge may indicate the effects that regional emissions reductions have on mid-morning O3. With reduced regional NOx, there are different behaviors between the regionally produced O3 on non-bay breeze days and the O3 produced under the extremely favorable conditions on bay breeze days. At Baltimore, the first statistically significant difference in daytime (again excluding the late evening hours of the 1995–2002 period) O3 occurs at 15 EST in the 2003–2010 period; much later than Hampton. This later O3 peak during bay breeze events has also been noted during DISCOVER-AQ at Edgewood, MD (Stauffer et al. 2012), and is likely a result of the recirculation of locally produced O3 and O3 precursors into the evening hours (Banta et al. 2005).
3.5 Normalized ozone
In addition to the comparison of the average diurnal cycles of O3 for each day type, a direct comparison of normalized data is also performed. This eliminates the seasonality of surface O3 within each year and gives a measure of the anomalies from mean O3 displayed from the three day types throughout the O3 season.
Here, A is the surface O3 anomaly in standard deviation from the mean. Every O3 measurement is now in terms of anomaly from the mean for its respective hour of the day. This method of normalizing the data allows for a direct comparison of each day type with the mean O3 in that group since the original data are approximately normally distributed.
Baltimore and Hampton show different qualities in the diurnal variability of O3 anomalies, especially late in the day. With respect to the mean, the high O3 on bay breeze days at Hampton subsides more quickly than at Baltimore, which remains elevated through the evening hours. At both sites however, the 2003–2010 bay breeze days represent the highest average anomalies during the daytime; further proof that localized meteorology plays a larger role in the current lower NOx regime. At Baltimore, the 2003–2010 rainy/cloudy days represent less of a negative anomaly in O3 than in the earlier periods, likely because of a combination of overall lowering of O3 mixing ratios due to NOx reductions, and a higher number of rainy/cloudy days analyzed in the 2003–2010 period. This same trend is not evident in the Hampton data, perhaps due to the smaller reduction in baseline O3 and fewer rainy/cloudy days at that site.
3.6 Increasing role of the bay breeze at Hampton
3.7 Discussion of exceedance rate differences
Since the reduction of NOx emissions in the early 2000s, the bay breeze has contributed more to violating the EPA 8-h O3 standard at Hampton, VA than at Baltimore, MD. There are several possible reasons for this difference. Baltimore observed an average of almost 13 exceedances per year from May through September 2003–2010, while Hampton averaged fewer than 5 per year over the same period. Weather that is conducive to surface O3 violations appears to be more critical at Hampton than at Baltimore where baseline O3 and NOx emissions are higher, and in the case of the former, bay breezes provide those exceptional conditions. This leads to the higher bay breeze percentage of total exceedances observed at the Hampton site. The recirculation of local O3 precursors at the Baltimore site may be overshadowed by the total regional emissions in the more urbanized Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. These reasons likely contributed to the lack of response in bay breeze exceedance percentage at Baltimore in the 2003–2010 period.
In general, bay breezes in the Chesapeake Bay region are found to enhance air quality problems. Mean calculated 8-h O3 maxima were 3 to 5 ppbv higher on bay breeze days compared to non-bay breeze days at both sites in any given year period (Table 4). In both locations, afternoon mean hourly surface O3 was highest on bay breeze days compared to non-bay breeze and rainy/cloudy days for all time periods. The difference was statistically significant at Hampton, VA for afternoon hours during all three study periods, but was only statistically different during late afternoon hours for the 2003–2010 study period at Baltimore, MD (Fig. 8). Surface O3 anomalies were also calculated at each site by hour of day. Both locations observed the highest O3 anomalies during bay breeze days for the years 2003–2010 during the afternoon period (Fig. 9), showing the enhanced role of localized meteorology in the current lower NOx regime.
The percentage of total exceedances during bay breeze days was steady at Baltimore for all three study periods, but jumped a total of 18.2 % from 1995–2002 to 2003–2010 at Hampton, with 43.2 % of exceedances occurring on bay breeze days in the latest period (Fig. 10). This result suggests an overall higher baseline O3 at Baltimore, where exceptional meteorological conditions are not as necessary for elevated O3 as they are at Hampton. This result also validates the hypothesis put forth by Martins et al. (2012) that the bay breeze is becoming more important to exceedance probability at certain locations, and will likely continue to be should O3 standards become more stringent.
It would be interesting to perform this type of analysis in other locations with air quality issues that are susceptible to water-body breezes. Other candidates for this type of analysis include Wallops Island, VA, which has ozonesonde records dating to 1970 and would be useful for examining the vertical structure of O3 during sea breeze events. Metropolitan locations such as Houston, Texas, have been intensely examined on a case-study basis (Banta et al. 2005; Banta et al. 2011), and will be the focus of the DISCOVER-AQ campaign in 2013. A climatological analysis of gulf breeze events would give an expanded view of historical air quality events in that region. Other possibilities include both urban and non-urban areas of New England, as more remote locations often experience the effects of transported pollutants downwind of major cities.
Funding for this project was provided by NASA DISCOVER-AQ grant NNX10AR39G, NASA ARCIONS grant NNX08AJ15G, NASA Aura grant NNG05GO62G, NASA SEAC4RS grant NNX12AF05G, and AQAST grant NNG11AQ44G. This paper is based on the lead author’s MS thesis. Thanks to thesis committee members Jose Fuentes and Bill Ryan for their assistance, ideas and critique. Thanks also Douglas Martins (PSU) and James Syzkman (EPA).
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